Springdale Mason Pediatrics

Growing Pains

Definition

  • Growing pains are harmless pains that occur in the leg muscles
  • They are common and occur in 10 to 20% of children
  • They often start between ages 4 and 6

Call or Return If

  • Pain moves to the joints (hip, knee or ankle)
  • Limping occurs
  • You think your child needs to be seen
  • Your child becomes worse

About This Topic

Symptoms

  • Mild to moderate pains that occur in the thigh or calf muscles. The pain is not in the joints.
  • The pain usually occurs on both sides.
  • The pain usually lasts 10 to 30 minutes.
  • Usually only occur once per day, often in the evening.

Diagnosis

  • Diagnosis is made based upon the typical pain pattern and a normal physical exam. There is no joint swelling, limping or fever. There is also normal movement of the leg joints.
  • Lab tests and X-ray studies are not helpful.

Cause

  • Growing pains tend to occur late in the day. They are probably due to running and playing hard. They don't follow any known injury. Some of them are muscle cramps.
  • There is no research that suggests they are caused by growth. They don't occur during a period of rapid growth.
  • But, they have been called growing pains for over 100 years. No better term has come along to replace it.

After Care Advice

Overview:
  • Growing pains are common and occur in normal children.
  • Usually, the muscle pains don't last more than 30 minutes.
  • Here is some care advice that should help.
Massage:
  • Massage of the sore muscles can help the pain go away.
  • It also increases blood flow to the muscle.
Pain Medicine:
  • Give acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen if the pain lasts more than 30 minutes.
  • Usually, pain medicines are not needed because the pain goes away quickly.
Activity: 
  • Your child does not need to limit his sports or play. It is not helpful to restrict activity.
Prevention of Recurrent Growing Pains:
  • Research has shown that daily stretching exercises can prevent most growing pains.
  • Have someone teach you how to stretch the quads, hamstrings, and calf muscles.
  • Stretch each muscle several times every day. The best time often is before the time that the growing pains usually occur.
  • Also, be sure your child gets enough calcium in the diet. Daily Vitamin D3 may also help.
What to Expect:
  • Each bout of pain lasts 10-30 minutes.
  • Growing pains come and go for several years.
  • They are rarely seen after 10 years of age.

Author: Barton Schmitt MD, FAAP
Copyright 2000-2020 Schmitt Pediatric Guidelines LLC
Disclaimer: This health information is for educational purposes only. You the reader assume full responsibility for how you choose to use it.
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